Construction Project Schedule Techniques to Keep Your Project on Track

Construction Schedule Types To Keep Your Project on Track

While all industries have different challenges when it comes to keeping projects on track, the advantages of scheduling in construction management are unquestionable. The construction industry has multiple schedule types that adapt to every project. However, All of them have a primary purpose: to help teams keep the project on track, aligning numerous stakeholders and parties that must collaborate and work together to meet timelines and standards.

What is a Construction Schedule

A construction schedule is the project timeline that is usually created during the planning phase. It is a vital document because it maps tasks and events required to ensure projects are delivered timely and efficiently. To ensure the construction schedule is helpful, it is essential to ensure it includes clarity on deadlines, how resources and assets are allocated, information about the project deliverables and tasks to be completed, tasks duration as well as any dependencies to prevent delays, and a clear overview of the general budgets and costs. 

Given how vital construction schedules are, there are multiple types of construction schedules that construction teams can adapt to better map timelines and prevent delays. 

Critical Path Method (CPM)

The Critical Path Method (CPM) or Critical Path Scheduling gets more complicated, considering it’s much more detailed. Each activity on the sheet shows the activity’s “path,” as in all activities before the main activity and everything after. This is done so that everyone knows the dependencies of any given task. The Critical Path Method includes start dates and times, as well as end dates and times. It essentially splits the activities into segments with little gaps in between to account for delays and leave room for error.

CPM also includes an estimate of the fastest possible time to finish a specific activity, allowing teams to visualize the project tasks, identify and anticipate delays, and, more importantly, adapt in case they happen. These calculations are usually generated with different algorithms, computer programs, and construction scheduling software that helps teams streamline operations.

While it is a comprehensive way to schedule projects, given its networked nature and the mapping of dependencies, it can also be daunting for smaller projects that do not have such a complex and networked set of activities. While you can continuously adapt it to your project and start small to match your needs, remember that ensuring you can deliver projects with the highest quality and on time is what matters. 

Gantt Charts

Another way you can keep your construction project on track is by using Gantt charts. Gantt charts are the most straightforward way to set up schedules. They’re widely accepted on construction sites and are famous for their simplicity and versatility. Gantt charts consist of a list of activities with all the information about the activity regarding time. The start time/date, duration, and completion time/date are all included. The details of the information vary with each project, meaning the more complex a project is, the more complex the schedule is.

Gantt charts, however, aren’t just used for time tracking but also to track other aspects of the project. They can be used to monitor the resources needed, keeping the project on schedule, considering the necessary equipment will always be available. While they may be easier to use for specific projects, they may fall a bit short with more extensive scenarios with multiple tasks happening simultaneously, in which case, perhaps the CPM method might be best.

Line of Balance Technique

A Line of Balance (LOB) Scheduling Technique is generally used for repetitive work. This process allots the resources required for every individual step of the operation in a way that helps teams prevent delays in the activities. While this technique is often related to the planning of manufacturing processes, it is also used when it comes to road construction and construction work in general. The LOB chart displays the required pace at which all activities must be completed to remain on schedule without the details and specific duration of a particular task, helping teams easily stay on track. When circumstances allow, this process is straightforward and effective.

Remember that if you have a less repetitive project with multiple moving parts and diverse tasks that must be aligned to meet deadlines, there may be better ways to keep your project on track. 

Q (Quantitative, Queue) Scheduling

Q scheduling uses bar charts to schedule the materials and equipment required for any given project. The Q in Q Scheduling has several different meanings. The first is the Quantitative Schedule, which refers to the quantities in various project elements that comprise the whole schedule. The second is Queue Scheduling which refers to the queue sequence in which trades pass through. The queue consists of many segments, with no contact between two activities in the same place.

The Q techniques are relatively new. However, its popularity with contractors has grown quickly, given its implications in project analytics. Unlike the LOB technique, this method is excellent for tracking projects with both repetitive and variable tasks. Also, while it is widely used and popular now, stakeholders may not be familiar with it, which could lead to unnecessary issues.

Resource-Oriented Scheduling

Resource-oriented Scheduling revolves around the project’s resources, and it is usually implemented in projects with minimal resources available. In these circumstances, delays are much more likely to occur because a lot of time is spent waiting for more resources to get the work done. There is no telling how long it will take for more resources, and the longer it takes, the higher the costs and the lower the productivity. Schedules that do not allocate for such conditions are generally not realistic. Construction companies may use Resource-Oriented Scheduling for projects that require access to unique resources that may be harder to obtain.

Agile Scheduling

Agile construction, inspired by software production project management techniques, is a dynamic approach that helps construction companies navigate a faster and more volatile construction landscape. Instead of focusing on robust task mapping, this method is driven by customer feedback and focuses on dividing more significant tasks into smaller, manageable work items. 

Just like with all the other techniques, the goal behind using this method is to deliver projects quickly and efficiently. But unlike other methods, this one shines for its capacity to adapt to changing scenarios with shorter planning loops. 

This technique is gaining popularity in construction because of its four main elements: Collaboration, Flexibility, Implementing software for quality management and tracking, and constant interaction with stakeholders to ensure expectations are met. While its benefits are clear, adapting this technique may be challenging for more traditional teams that aren’t used to fast iterative project management. However, if the project has tasks or resources that are more dynamic, this is the type of scheduling technique that can make your life easier while also helping you deliver timely results.

Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)

The PERT technique focuses on identifying the milestones that can help teams determine whether or not any particular project is being completed as expected. This methodology stands out because it encourages construction teams to think about delivery in multiple scenarios: 

  • Optimistic time: the ideal time scenario for any task that needs to be completed.
  • Pessimistic time: the longest it could take a task to be completed.
  • Most likely time: the most realistic scenario without accounting for any challenges. 
  • Expected time: taking into account problems, this is the final estimate of how long it should take for the activity to be completed. 

While this scheduling methodology is widely used because it lays out milestones and encourages collaboration, it can also be too simplistic for projects with a set of tasks that are more complicated or networked (sharing resources among multiple projects). On top of that, the PERT technique is built based on the experience of the person in charge of the project. This means that the timelines are tied to historical data sets and experiences that may not be the best option in an ever-evolving industry. 

Last Planner System (LPS)

This system has a primary purpose: to improve project planning, execution, and, therefore, efficiency. Just like other methods we already discussed, it also requires teams to be active and participate in the process to succeed. Usually, to use this system, a master schedule is created, mapping the general timelines and milestones for any project, followed by phase schedules that dive a little deeper into the sequence of activities. Finally, weekly work plans are also created and happen in tandem, including input from the people responsible for executing the actual work. 

Just like the agile methodology, this system is more collaborative. It requires teams to focus on shorter feedback loops that help all stakeholders be aligned and adapt accordingly in case problems arise, an important advantage in the industry. However, the constant communication and coordination required to ensure LPS works can also be detrimental to teams without experience in this scheduling system.